|2007 Fantasy Takes: The Seattle Mariners|
Written by Matt Souders (Contact & Archive) on March 15, 2007
The Mariners are a team that provides an interesting mix of sleeper hopefuls (kids on the rise who have something to prove) and successful, if unspectacular veterans. They have three legitimate superstars, a handful of guys that get drafted every year in the middle rounds, a handful of guys who will be getting drafted every year from this point on, and a handful of guys to steer clear of at all costs. Unless you're playing in a league with lots of fans of the AL West, chances are, some of these guys can be had lower than they should be, so keep an eye on the draft board and don't be afraid to grab some Mariners.
CF) Ichiro Suzuki - Ichiro is routinely taken in the first or very early second rounds as a right fielder. If your league differentiates between right and center field, however, prepare to watch him disappear by pick #8 this year. There is a general lack of quality talent at CF this year (well...every year) with the exception of a select few, and Ichiro is probably the second best choice among those few. He brings a lot to the table with consistency (his slumps don't generally last long, and even while slumping, he'll usually get you some hits), speed (he is good for another 30-45 steals this year), and durability (rarely will he disappear from the starting line-up leaving you with a big hole).
SP) Felix Hernandez - A lot of you are probably saying "Really? After that 4.50 ERA last year, he's a superstar?" I'm here to tell you that he is being drafted like a superstar in most leagues I've had the privy of hearing results from early in this 2007 draft season. Sometimes he gets to the fourth round in really small mixed leagues (8 players or less) but he's generally gone by the middle 20s on most league boards. He reported to spring training in outstanding physical shape and is throwing beautifully early in the spring. If he doesn't get you a 2.75 or lower ERA and 180+ Ks (not to mention a good 15+ wins) I'll be absolutely astounded. Treat him like you would treat Johan Santana or Roy Halladay - he's just that good.
CL) J.J. Putz - With a somewhat better ball club surrounding him, Putz is likely to get more save chances in 2007, and not particularly likely to decline significantly from his 104/13 K/BB ratio, his eye popping 11-12 K/9, or his sub-2.50 ERA. He's every bit the closer Mariano Rivera is now (not quite as good as Mo was a few years ago, but that's a different pitcher), and he should be treated as such. When the closer run (you know how it works - one guy drafts a closer, and there's a miniature panic as every other team locks in an elite closer in the early rounds) begins, be ready to pounce on Putz.
1B) Richie Sexson - Expect somewhat of a rebound from Sexson this year. He had a disappointing first half last year that held his power production down a bit from his established level of performance. He's not a guy you count on for good average or stunning on base percentage, but he'll get you the 35-40 HRs, 100-120 RBIs and solid all around numbers for leagues that count OBP, OPS, SLG, TB, R and even 2B, but he's not the kind of guy you draft as your plan A at first base. Take him if you get to round 7 or 8 and realize you don't have power or a first baseman yet.
3B) Adrian Beltre - SLEEPER ALERT! A lot of folks have given up on Beltre ever being a star again after 18 months of misery in Seattle for the 64 million dollar man. I have not. Chances are, Beltre will slip way too low on your draft board if you're not playing with pros, and he can be had later than he's worth, but he got to spring training and has bulked up a bit. His winter training regimen included intensive work with Jeff Pentland (Ms' hitting coach) on landing with better balance at the end of his swing and on creating a more golf-like swing that produces better torque with less effort, shortening his stroke. I believe this will be a big year for Beltre. That said, he's not the kind of guy you spend a high draft choice on. Sleepers are guys you grab lower down if you can. Keep Beltre in mind and don't let him hit the middle rounds unnoticed.
LF) Raul Ibanez - COLLAPSE ALERT! Coming off a career year in 2006 in which he drove in 127, and being placed in the #3 or #4 slots in the upgraded Mariner batting order again this year, some folks will probably overvalue Ibanez and take him several rounds too early. If somehow he drops down into the 12-16 area, he's a good grab. Safeco Field might as well be Coors Field for lefty top-hand hitters like Ibanez. He consistently takes advantage of that RF corner at home. That said, don't expect 33 HR and 127 RBI again this year. He's good for 20-27 HR in a more typical year and 90-110 RBI, which makes him valuable but not extremely so.
2B) Jose Vidro - SLEEPER ALERT! For one more season, Vidro qualifies at second base. At a catastrophically thin position, a guy like Vidro, coming off some bad years created by injury (if you check his month by month splits, he hits .270/.340/.370 when playing hurt or recovering from injury and still rakes at a .290/.360/.500 clip when healthy), Vidro will be overlooked, and it's a mistake. Unless he can't adjust to being a DH (some batters can't because they can't focus), a healthy Vidro could be HUGE for you one more time before he gets lost in the utility bin.
2B) Jose Lopez - I am still of the opinion that Lopez has some more growing pains to do before he becomes the next incarnation of Miguel Tejada (look how similar they were as minor leaguers - except Lopez was younger!) so I'm not drafting Lopez unless I get desperate for second basemen. In fact I probably take Vidro first. That said, he's not a bad choice if you like taking gambles on the kids. His breakout potential is real, and his ceiling is very high.
OF) Jose Guillen - No one is going to draft Guillen unless it's AL only and the league is quite deep. If he's completely healthy, though, Guillen could give you 20+ HRs and solid all around production, which ain't too shabby for a 25th round grab. If you're playing in deep leagues, consider Guillen for your bench. He's good insurance at this point.
The Rest of the Mariner Rotation - Horacio Ramirez, Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver, and Miguel Batista all share one thing in common. None of them are going to win you K/9, K/BB, W, or WHIP titles. None of them are horrible pitchers, but they all pitch to contact, eat unspectacular innings and will do you no good at all unless they get hot. They're guys you grab for single-game match-ups if at all.